Mount Maunganui's Cody Cooper (Honda) brought his busy year of international racing to close on Sunday with a commanding victory at his home motocross event.
Cooper took four wins from five starts during the BOP Motorcycle Club's Honda Summercross at Awakaponga, near Whakatāne, heading off fellow Mount Maunganui racer Rhys Carter (Yamaha) by 12 points to clinch the MX1 class.
The 47th annual holiday season dirt bike spectacular was only the second local race for Cooper since returning from a US campaign in 2018 and it begins his preparation for the New Zealand MX Champs which run through February and March.
"When I got home from America, I was really sick for about two weeks. I'd picked up a virus while travelling and I lost weight and a bit of strength," Cooper said.
"I've tested myself with my training in the last few weeks and I'm feeling good again."
Summercross has a unique five-race format which comprises two pairs of sprint races and a longer final moto. Cooper already had three wins in the bag before chasing Carter home in the second stanza of round two.
"I got a bit frustrated because I had to follow Rhys and there was nowhere to pass. That added a bit of pressure for needing a good start in the last one, but I got it," he said.
Cooper looked at ease on his Honda with his speed delivered in a smooth and unhurried riding style.
"I've been working with M-Spec from Tauranga on my bike's suspension and some of the things we've done has actually changed my thinking. It's made it easier because I feel at one with the bike."
It was also a strong return from a racing break for Carter.
"It was my first race since Labour weekend. I'd torn a muscle in my leg during the MX of Nations [early October in the US] and decided I needed time for it to heal," Carter said.
"So I'm not fully bike-fit yet but [Sunday] was good to get a heads-up on my speed. I'm happy with it and there's still more in the tank."
Behind Cooper and Carter, the next best MX1 racers were former world number two Josh Coppins (Motueka) on a Yamaha and young Taupo rider Cohen Chase (Kawasaki).
Mangakino's Maximus Purvis (Yamaha) and Taupo's Wyatt Chase (Honda) were the 250cc pacemakers but both had one race where they finished well back in the pack. Purvis edged Chase by four points with Rangiora's Micah McGoldrick (KTM) completing the MX2 podium.
On Saturday there were 296 riders chasing Summercross Mini and Junior honours across 14 classes with Tauranga's Brodie Connolly (Husqvarna) the fastest by a clear margin as he swept the 15-16 years 125cc class.
Connolly was back in action on Sunday setting the pace in the Youth MX (15-21 years) class against a field mainly comprising 250cc machines. His chances of a win were ended by a two-minute penalty incurred when he was judged to have jumped his bike in a yellow flag zone during the opening race.
Although that dropped him to 20th place in the results, Connolly recovered to finish second behind Wairoa's Tommy Watts (Kawasaki).
The closest Summercross points duel came in the Women's MX racing with Motueka's Roma Edwards (Yamaha) finishing just one point ahead of Rachael Archer (Cambridge).
Honda Summercross 2018 results:
1 Cody Cooper (Mount Maunganui) Honda, 246pts; 2 Rhys Carter (Mount Maunganui) Yamaha, 234pts; 3 Josh Coppins (Motueka) Yamaha, 209pts; 4 Cohen Chase (Taupō) Kawasaki, 198pts; 5 Hadleigh Knight (Reporoa) Yamaha, 197pts.
1 Maximus Purvis (Mangakino) Yamaha, 231pts; 2 Wyatt Chase (Taupō) Honda, 227pts; 3 Micah McGoldrick (Rangiora) Honda, 205pts; 4 Brad Groombridge (Taupo) Suzuki, 204pts; 5 Ethan Martens (Auckland) Kawasaki, 201pts.
Youth MX (125/250cc):
1 Tommy Watts (Wairoa) Kawasaki, 136pts; 2 Brodie Connolly (Tauranga) Husqvarna, 123pts; 3 Ethan Waters (Nelson) Yamaha, 123pts.